Oct 21, 2010

Times Record Endorsement



Kevin Settle is now completing his first term on the Fort Smith Board of Directors, and during that four-year period, he has distinguished himself as a voice of reason.


Maybe it's his engineering background, but if anyone on the board can look at an issue and make a decision solely on the merits and without a lot of fanfare, it's Settle. And that kind of leadership is going to be needed. With the changing of the guard on the board, Settle, if elected, will be the senior member.


Settle is a homeboy. He grew up in Fort Smith, graduated high school at Southside and attended Westark Community College. From there, he went to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. He's currently the engineering manager for Exide Technologies.


As if being married and raising a couple of youngsters isn't enough extracurricular work, Settle also serves as a board member of the Sebastian County Regional Solid Waste Management District as well as the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District.


If one could distill Settle's philosophy into just a few words, it would be that he's for taking care of business but in a fiscally responsible way. He's against asking voters to pass a sales tax on restaurant purchases to keep the Fort Smith Convention Center afloat, for instance, because he thinks other ways can be found that don't require a tax increase.


His proudest achievements are getting the city's board meetings televised, seeing residential and industrial growth at Fort Chaffee, and facilitating job growth, street and wet weather drainage improvements as well as a regional approach to economic development, to name a few.


That regional approach is easier said than done sometimes, he acknowledges, because of city jealousies that are akin to high school rivalries. But a win for Van Buren or another city in our region is a win for Fort Smith, he said, because the people who live there also work and shop here and vice versa.


Settle also understands that the city has got to plan better long term so it can address problems before they are emergencies. The city has known for a decade the state's turnback money was going to evaporate this summer and leave a hole in the Convention Center finances, for instance, but only now that the money's gone is the city trying to figure out a solution. The same with the city's water treatment system. Only when the feds were breathing down the city's collective neck was the problem addressed, and by then, there were few choices available.


To confront such issues, Settle wants to see the city and staff and regional entities come together to create a plan that will map out Fort Smith's destiny for the next 10 years. Not a novel idea, but one that has been lacking.


We think with his experience and professionalism, he can be the leader of a city board that will indeed take Fort Smith forward, and we endorse him for the At-Large Position 6 seat.